In the aftermath of running the Greater Manchester Marathon I went through a range of emotions, all of which are quite natural for us high achievers!
I’ve set out for you here the 6 steps I took to reconcile how I felt about my performance in the race. I would invite you to get conscious of your emotional reactions after the next tough challenge that you undertake. How many of these stages do you go through?
WALLOW (A BIT!) – It’s natural to be disheartened when best laid plans go awry and it’s perfectly okay in my book to allow a little time to feel sorry for yourself immediately after the event. Do what you need to for a while but don’t leave it too long to dust yourself down and move on!
FIND A POSITIVE – Finding the silver lining from the experience will help you to get over it far quicker, so make a point of doing this quite quickly after the event, say the morning after. I was able to adapt to the conditions, work through the race and cross the finishing line with all my limbs intact and without feeling any aches or pains after the event. That sounds simple until you consider that the roadside was littered with wounded people waiting for treatment and to be taken back to the start line. However the event pans out, it’s important to consider it a success. By focusing on something positive that comes out of the experience we can feel much more satisfied with the end result.
ANALYSE WHAT HAPPENED – once your emotions settle, review your plan and strategy and aim to do this within a few days of the event. Approach this exercise with an attitude of curiosity and see what comes up. What went wrong is sometimes within your control. In my case, I took it at face value that this was a flat course and was surprised to find there were a few uphill gradients that seemed to go on forever. I had done zero hill training and that did slow me down, particularly as I tired and my body temperature dropped.
SET NEW OUTCOMES – Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in a single bad experience as that does nothing for your confidence or your willingness to go again. Adopt a positive mindset and remember that your career isn’t about one mistake. Within a week or so, use any disappointment to fuel your next success. Make your next outcome manageable and remember to set smaller goals along the way so that you can experience a frequent sense of achievement.
MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS – Before your next attempt; remind yourself that your performance – good or bad – doesn’t define you. Are you someone who, like me, can make challenges harder than they need to be by moving the goal posts in response to a good planning or training experience? When I first registered for the marathon my outcome was to finish before the organisers re-opened the roads and to cross the finish line with a smile on my face, even if there was no-one there to see it. By the time the marathon was less than a month away, I had re-set my expectations to shave off 90 minutes from my original estimate, leaving no margin for error and having made no allowances for the unexpected to happen, which of course it did. The pressure to run a perfect race took the edge off my achievement and I had to remind myself that running for me is part of a healthy lifestyle. When I run I feel stronger, happier and mentally balanced. Those benefits outshine any post-race glow I might have felt had I crossed the finish line sooner.
EMBRACE THE PROCESS – As a Leadership Coach, you would expect me to be outcome-focused, and I did have outcomes for completing the marathon as you now know. However, I highly recommend being equally process-focused as in my experience that is the way to enjoy your journey to the finish line, whatever the challenge you are facing. If you focus on a highly ambitious, perhaps unrealistic time goal and then you do not meet it, you will feel like a failure and I should know! However, if you measure your success in part on this and also on the experience itself then you’ll learn from your mistakes and come back stronger.
Apply these 6 steps to help you re-experience your outcomes and your performance in a positive and empowering way.